What happened to Bijan Ghaisar?

Tragedy in Fairfax County. Bijan Ghaisar was a McLean-based accountant and graduate of Langley High School. On Nov 17, 2017 he was driving southbound on the George Washington Parkway north of Old Town, Alexandria. His vehicle was rear-ended by an Uber driver and, for reasons nobody can understand, Ghaisar fled the scene in his Jeep. It was very strange that the victim of a rear-end collision would flee. However, things got much stranger from there.

Ghaisar’s Jeep was spotted on the GW Parkway by the U.S. Park Police and they attempted to pull Ghaisar over. Ghaisar pulled over, Park Police approached with guns drawn and Ghaisar inexplicably drove away. After a low-speed chase Ghaisar pulled over a second time, Park Police approached a second time and Ghaisar fled again. By this time Ghaisar had entered Fairfax County and a Fairfax County police cruiser (with his dash cam on) joined the pursuit. The third stop happened at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue. This stop seemed like it would be a repeat of the first two stops except that when Ghaisar started to pull away the Park Policemen fired nine shots into Ghaisar’s car hitting him four times in the head. He died 10 days later of his wounds. The video from the Fairfax County patrol car has been released. Warning: it is extremely graphic and terribly tragic. Readers should view this only after considering how it might affect them.

Investigations and avoiding conflicts of interest. In order to avoid conflicts of interest the FBI has been asked to investigate the killing and the D.C. prosecutors will bring charges if justified. While it’s admirable that the investigation and possible prosecution will he handled by parties at arm’s length to the law enforcement agencies involved, the investigators’ silence to date has been deafening. After more than seven months the Park Police officers involved have not been named, federal officials have refused to meet with local politicians and the DoJ has blocked the release of the 911 call related to this incident.

Protests and rallies. The cloak of silence surrounding the killing of Bijan Ghaisar has frayed the nerves of many in the Ft. Hunt community where Bhaisar was killed. Needless to say, his family is distraught. On May 19 family and friends of Ghaisar along with local politicians held a rally at the Department of Justice demanding answers. State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, (one of the few General Assembly members who consistently make sense) said, “It is absolutely crazy that it has now been six months of silence from the authorities … when you watch the video, Bijan is not speeding or driving aggressively. Nothing in that video said that anybody should be shot four times in the head. This is happening way too much in this country and in Northern Virginia. It is so important that we get transparency on this.” Amen, Scott.

Update. As of this date, no information has been released by the authorities. Yesterday, FBI agents brought Ghaisar’s Jeep back to the scene of the killing. They were seen conducting ballistics analyses and using a metal detector in the nearby woods. Asked if agents were searching for something thrown from the Jeep they refused to answer. Why it took over seven months to go through this exercise is anybody’s guess. And let’s hope to heaven that they don’t claim to find a gun in woods near the scene of the killing more than seven months after it happened.

My take. Watching the dash cam video makes it hard to understand why the Park Police felt the need to fire nine times into Ghaisar’s Jeep. However, I will carefully read the final report before I pass judgement. Yet beyond this specific incident, this type of thing is happening far too often in the United States. President Trump would be well advised to launch a national task force to analyze these police killings and find way to combat this plague of violence. Something is wrong and something needs to be done.

— Don Rippert

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11 responses to “What happened to Bijan Ghaisar?

  1. The militarization of our police and community polarization about their role is a topic that deserves more attention. In the Washington area with its numerous separate police forces with overlapping jurisdictions it’s a wonder these armed militias can avoid open conflict with each other. As our mercenary (no longer drafted) armed forces churn young men through Afghanistan and Iraq, we are recruiting graduates of the New Armed Forces to do our police and emergency services work throughout every community in the Nation; and many of these young people are attracted to politics as a later career. Perhaps we should also take a closer look at what this means for the future of police-community relations and long-term political polarization; and what the absence of mandated public service means for other young people.

  2. “As our MERCENARY (no longer drafted) armed forces churn young men through Afghanistan and Iraq, we are recruiting graduates of the New Armed Forces to do our police and emergency services work throughout every community in the Nation …”

    That characterization is highly unfair, a smear, and total horseshit.

    See: https://www.google.com/search?q=Dictionary

    mer·ce·nar·y
    ˈmərsəˌnerē/
    adjectivederogatory
    adjective: mercenary

    1.
    (of a person or their behavior) primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics.
    “she’s nothing but a mercenary little gold digger”
    synonyms: money-oriented, grasping, greedy, acquisitive, avaricious, covetous, bribable, venal, materialistic; informalmoney-grubbing
    “mercenary self-interest”

    noun
    noun: mercenary; plural noun: mercenaries

    1.
    a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.
    synonyms: soldier of fortune, professional soldier, hired soldier, gunman;

    • RF, apologies if you took me to mean by mercenary the “at the expense of ethics” part of your definition. I did mean the “making money” part; indeed I was a Navy officer myself, and I still encourage young people all the time who are drifting in that sea of doubt about a career to get into the military, sort your life out, and use the GI benefits to get the education you really want without a mountain of debt. Like you I witnessed the change from the armed forces dominated by draftees to today’s all volunteer forces. My impression is, it’s been better for the military, but far from better for society generally. First, the notion of every citizen owing a term of public service during his lifetime is fast eroding in this country; I have always admired the European model of either military or foreign (Peace Corps style) or medical or teaching service for a couple of years by EVERY young adult. Second, the understanding and acceptance of what the military is and does and the sense of a top-down discipline is fast eroding here, because so few “ordinary” middle class citizens have ever been directly exposed to it.

      I do believe a lot of this dichotemy transfers to the police – community relationship and the problems that result, in part, from the high percentage of vets who seek employment in police work and bring military training and discipline and other attitudes with them that are alien to so many who’ve never been experienced them. I think this is a major contributing factor in the polarization so extremely illustrated in Ferguson MO, but also at work in lots of cheap shots at the military and police that I hear from well-meaning neighbors and associates of my children who ought to know better. So, again, no disparagement intended; I used the term as shorthand for “all volunteer, in it for the money” without any ethical or anti-patriotic spin.

    • Valid point, Reed, but no profanity, please.

  3. It was very hard to draw any conclusions from the dash cam tape. It was blurry at the end and the FCPD car was often far behind the private citizen’s and park police vehicles. Maybe that’s why there is movement to using body cams.

    My instinct would have been to shoot out the private citizen’s tires. But if I were on a jury I sure would want more evidence before I could decide whether this was a crime or justified.

    • Isn’t the big issue whether Ghaisar had a gun? His family swears he didn’t own a gun and didn’t have a gun. The fact that the FBI was using metal detectors says they were probably looking fr a gun or bullets.

      The guy was in a car driving away when they unloaded 9 shots into his car hitting him four times in the head. Sorry but the only way I can imagine that as justified is if he’s pointing a gun at them at the time. However, I doubt he was. He obviously didn’t get very far after being shot in the head. If he had a gun when he was shot they would have found it immediately. Why would it take over 7 months to say, “The suspect pointed a gun at Park Police officers and they opened fire.”

      This whole incident seems to stink to high heaven.

      As for shooting out his tires – you’ve been watching too many Dirty Harry movies. His only observable crime was failing to obey a rightful order to stop. You don’t fire a weapon at somebody over that.

      • From the perspective of the dash cam and that’s all I’ve seen, I have no idea whether Ghaisar had a gun or whether he was pointing it. And if so, when it was pointed or observed. We do have more than failing to obey a lawful order to stop. The dash cam showed three such incidents. It might be appropriate to shoot his tires or otherwise try to disable his vehicle at the second or third event.

        I’m still at the point where I don’t have enough information to make any conclusion. At some point, I would expect (in the sense of insist) that all the results of the investigation be made public.

        I’m not taking the police side. I’m just saying I don’t know enough from the material you provided to draw any conclusions. But the public does need all of the facts and evidence, including the investigation reports. Sooner is better than later.

        • Fair enough. I’m just always suspicious of investigations that seem to go on forever when it comes to police shootings. If there was a dash-cam video of a private citizen unloading a volley of bullets into Ghaisar’s car this investigation would have been long over.

          The U.S. Park Police policy reads that a vehicular pursuit is authorized only when: “the officer has reason to believe a felony has occurred or is occurring. Or the suspect presents a clear and immediate threat to public safety.” The driver of the car who hit Ghaisar’s Jeep was cited for failing to maintain control. In other words, Ghaisar was the victim in the fender bender, not the perpetrator. In other words the Park Police, if they would have followed their own protocol, would not have chased Ghaisar when he failed to obey the order to stop.

          The Park Police department’s use-of-deadly-force policy reads that officers shall not fire at a moving vehicle, “except when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.” In other words, they better be able to produce a gun.

  4. Sorry to sound cynical, but it’s too bad Ghaisar wasn’t black. There would have been protests, Twitter storms, and wall-to-wall media coverage. Law-enforcement authorities would have been panicked into doing the detective work months ago. But Ghaisar looks too white to fit the media narrative, so this will never amount to more than a local matter.

  5. I tend to agree that the police have been militarized both policy-wise and culture from their favored recruitment of ex-service members.

    I question the use of deadly force in the many cases that seem to suggest the police felt “threatened” and thought there ‘could’ be a gun.

    So we have a problem with precise definition of the criteria when deadly force is justified. It’s not a one-off… it’s over and over.

    I defend the police. In a country where virtually anyone can own a gun – ordinary human beings – working as policemen to ” protect and serve” – there are also too many times a policeman loses his life giving the benefit of the doubt to some scum-ball.

    Truth is – we’ve gotten to the point where police shoot first and ask questions later….

  6. I’ve been following this case also (per proviso below- there is not much info to follow). We at least owe a big “thank you” to Fairfax Co. for releasing the dash cam video. Fairfax had offered to release the video much earlier than they did, but FBI had the lead and apparently needed to approve the release of the video.

    This is the general case of somebody fleeing the police and getting shot for that reason. As far as I know, the subject was unarmed, and no one had suggested he actually had a gun. In the lack of official report, it strikes me as lack of training of the Park Police. There must be a police technique to block off a stopped vehicle from driving around the police cars to simply drive away. But obviously from the video, the subject’s actions were extremely evasive and unsafe, and repeatedly so. We’ll apparently never know what the heck the driver was thinking or trying to hide.

    I’ve noticed the Fairfax County police have become extraordinarily tight lipped about all news. About a year ago, a young woman was murdered and her body propped up on a tree in local neighborhood yard. Aside from the initial news report, that’s all we got on it. Recently a driver managed to cut his Lamborghini in half in a Tysons Corner parking lot, and except for the national news headline, that was the end of it. I wanted to know if it was a Va. registered car for car tax purposes. Many other examples of zero news release after an incident.

    We used to have the ultra-raunchy website Fairfax Underground, which was good however for getting at these hidden details. We still have the website, but the news flow “leaks” have all but stopped, such that the website is now much less useful, I find.

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